Not Afraid to Speak Up

Oliver Halbert M.D. grew up in Waco and graduated from Waco University in 1873, then studied medicine at the University of Louisville before coming back to practice on the east side of Waco. His passion for learning led him to take regular post-graduate medicine courses in New York City. Freshly motivated after one of his NYC study trips, he placed a notice in the newspaper that local doctors should have an office where they worked instead of standing around drug stores, smoking cigars and telling yarns. A special meeting of the Waco Medical Association was called, and Dr. Halbert was expelled for unprofessional conduct. He was reinstated when he apologized, and later served as president of the association and vice-president of the TMA.

Later, while serving as county health officer, he discovered numerous patients had been treated for fever with a rash. He diagnosed this as smallpox. The chamber of commerce met with other physicians, and made a statement denouncing Dr. Halbert, and declared there was no smallpox in Waco. Dr. Halbert had the State Health Officer come to Waco to confirm the presence of smallpox. Appropriate measures were then taken and the epidemic quickly died out.

Dr. Halbert was a longtime member of First Baptist Church until he fell into a strong disagreement with another prominent physician member of the church. He became a charter member of East Waco Baptist Church, then later was one of the organizers of the Columbus St. Baptist Church, where he served as a deacon until his death. From 1896 for many years, he was on the board of the YMCA, including years as president, and gave heavily of his time and money to promoting the Y. He also served on the board of trustees of Baylor University.

A hard-working, tireless, up-to-date, caring physician, when he died in 1914, the funeral procession was the longest ever known in Waco.

This story is drawn from a biographical memoir by Dr. K. H. Aynesworth

Marc Barrett, M.D.

Marc came to Waco in 1980 after finishing his urology residency at Baylor College of Medicine. Shortly after, Mark Story and he merged their practices and this group grew into Central Texas Urology. In 2007, he was given the opportunity to serve as Interim CMO at Providence. Trying to balance time between his urology practice and novice administrator was challenging; about 6 months later he transitioned to being full time CMO. During most of this time and currently, he has served as Executive Director of Providence Health Alliance as well. Besides a lot of meetings, he handles a variety of strategy, operations, finance, medical staff issues, quality initiatives, interactions with patients, families, nurses, staff, and physicians. Providence-employed physicians would also say he serves as a champion for them, balancing the interests of the hospital, while protecting the values, priorities and leadership of physicians.

One exciting project for Marc has been working with Jonathan Ford, previous VP of Missions, to lead year-long programs entitled Physician-Spouse Formation. These programs have involved primary care physicians, specialists, residents, and faculty from FHC where docs and spouses address the need to return to the spiritual practice of medicine and expand understanding and appreciation of the Catholic healthcare mission.  In addition, the program addresses factors related to stress and burnout which is increasingly common in physicians and their families. The fifth year of Physician-Spouse Formation is slated to begin later this year.

Besides his leadership at Providence and with Ascension Health, he has found the Texas Hospital Association to be a strong advocate for physicians and quality initiatives. His service with the THA includes serving on the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Hospital Physician Executive Constituency Group. On a personal note, Marc and wife Anne cook and enjoy food and wine with friends and a focus on travel. He likes working in the yard, reading, fly fishing, and is active on the Board of the Downtown Farmers Market.

If there is one message you’d give to today’s physician, what would it be?

Several years ago we saw fewer and fewer physician children go into medicine because of dramatic and ongoing frustration with changes in healthcare. Although the challenges and change will not go away, I see increasing opportunity for physicians to resume their role as leaders. The new leadership will not be command and control, rather influence and collaboration as we move toward value-driven care. I now see changes which warrant encouragement of promising young people to enter healthcare as practitioners, innovators, and leaders who will continue to drive value, quality outcomes, patient experience, and a reasonable work-life balance.

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